- 28 Mar 01
WHAT WE had tonight was a show for people who wanted something to do after work and before that meal. I can't understand how so many instruments and so much music can create so little soul.
WHAT WE had tonight was a show for people who wanted something to do after work and before that meal. I can't understand how so many instruments and so much music can create so little soul. Clannad tip-toed over melodies, reaching every note but rarely letting anything loose. Everything was so restrained, so comfortable, so measured and planned out. Everything was so perfect.
On several occasions I looked around the audience and they might as well have been at mass, so little were their bodies moving. What does that indicate, if not music which is book-keeping time; music without sensuousness; music without muscle and bone; music without dance in it. Music that certainly came from somewhere onetime but is so caught up in its 'have I got an arrangement for you' cleverness, that it has lost much of the flavour of the land and sea, and those who lived, loved and died in it.
In a show which was about half original/half traditional material, it was really only in the traditional tunes that I felt Clannad created something approaching passionate intensity. The intro, led by Máire Ní Bhraonáin on harp, was atmospheric, if not spectacular, covering 'King Of The Fairies' among others. 'Ó Ró Mo Bhuacgaillín' was fine, as was 'Níl Sé Lá' and 'Down By The Sally Gardens'. 'Téir Abhaile Rú' finished off the night in a strong fashion and actually got the audience clapping. And on her own, Máire Ní Bhraonáin, singing 'An Mhaighdean Mhaire', proved - if it needed to be proved - that she has a special and enchanting voice.
Otherwise, Clannad went through the motions of moulding a modern sound to an old music. That's a fine objective but what I actually heard was a bit of synth stuck in here, some lead guitar pasted there, a slice of sax thrown elsewhere, a drummer who did solos on the cymbals, backing vocalists who could be mistaken for statues, upright bass, and everything played note perfect or thereabouts.
I won't bother naming all the instruments because I have to keep this review under 10,000 words but I will say that as one was bundled on top of the other the spirit of the music ground to a halt. Only when Clannad harmonised and left space within the arrangements, did I feel that, yes, there were jewels buried here somewhere.
• Gerry McGovern